How Quirky is Berkeley? From Lucky’s to Amoeba at 2455 Telegraph Avenue

Lucky's Store No. 18. Photo: Donogh files, BAHA archives
Lucky’s Store No. 18. Photo: Donogh files, BAHA archives

The quirky-looking building on the southeast corner of Telegraph and Haste, now Amoeba Music, has a colorful history that illustrates several chapters in Berkeley’s proud, independent history.

The building at 2455 Telegraph started life as Lucky’s Store No. 18.

It served the south campus neighborhood for several decades. In February 1964, the campus chapter of CORE (the Congress on Racial Equality) took action against Lucky Store 18 in an effort to pressure Lucky into hiring African-Americans. The actions included picketing and the “shop-in,” in which nicely dressed CORE members filled shopping carts with groceries but then refused to pay for the groceries until Lucky ended its discriminatory practices.

After ten days of picketing and shop-ins, Lucky signed an agreement covering its Bay Area stores, promising to end racial discrimination in its hiring practices. Shortly after that, it closed Store No. 18 on Telegraph. They blamed a high degree of shoplifting on the decision to close, but it is difficult to believe that there wasn’t some degree of retaliation for the shop-ins.


The next business to open at 2455 Telegraph was the Espresso Forum, one of the first two espresso shops on Telegraph.

a(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQQXcau4IAI)
Screen shot of YouTube video of Cynthia Schemmel selling art in 1967
Espresso Forum.  Photo: Richard Friedman (August, 1969)
Espresso Forum. Photo: Richard Friedman (August, 1969)
Advertisement from Berkeley Barb, 1967
Advertisement from Berkeley Barb, 1967

The Forum was Bohemian in the intellectual sense of the word. In January 1966 the Forum made the news in the Berkeley Barb because of the Forum’s refusal to serve “people who look dirty or have long hair.”

Espresso Forum and Blue Cue. Photo: Berkeley Citizen September 30, 1966
Espresso Forum and Blue Cue. Photo: Berkeley Citizen September 30, 1966

At times Forum occupied the entire space, and at times it shared the space with other businesses such as Xanadu or the Blue Cue. It is immortalized in the “People’s History of Telegraph Avenue” mural by Osha Neumann and others on the Haste Street side of the building.

People's History of Telegraph Avenue. Photo: John Storey
People’s History of Telegraph Avenue. Photo: John Storey

Next into the building was Allen Michael Noonan and the New World Family, a commune that saw Noonan as a galactic messenger.

One World Family. Photo: Richard Misrach
One World Family. Photo: Richard Misrach
One World Family kitchen. Photo: Daily Californian, May 10, 1974
One World Family kitchen. Photo: Daily Californian, May 10, 1974

A One World Family mural graced the Haste Street wall which today is the canvas for the People’s History mural.

One World Family mural on Haste Street. Photo: Richard Misrach
One World Family mural on Haste Street. Photo: Richard Misrach

It depicted Allen Michael’s vision of a soldiers, workers, and church coalition under the benevolent guidance of a flying saucer.

After One World Family moved on, Villa Hermosa settled in for more than a decade. I have not yet found a photograph of Villa Hermosa, so it will remain the missing link.

In 1990, Amoeba Music opened in the spot, and it remains there 24 years later as the buildings on the other three corners of the intersection have either been boarded up or fallen to the wrecking ball.

Amoeba Music. Photo: Tom Dalzell
Amoeba Music. Photo: Tom Dalzell
1990 postcard from the collection of Tom Dalzell
1990 postcard from the collection of Tom Dalzell

The piano keys just south of 2455 Telegraph are as quirky as Telegraph’s material culture gets. They are part of Amoeba, if not part of the original Lucky’s Store No. 18.

The changes at the corner over the years have reflected changes in Berkeley — from a supermarket serving a tame student population to an intellectual espresso joint to a cult’s vegetarian restaurant to a cheap and homey Mexican restaurant to an independent music store. As the Grateful Dead would say, what a long strange trip it’s been.

Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,600 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means. 

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